I've had more time to spend with Total Air War, and this time instead of a mission report I want to give you a blow by blow account of my actions in the first campaign, starting around 7 hours into the battle. The difference between this debrief and my previous report is that this time I flew almost exclusively from the AWACS interface, acting as Theater Commander and pilot at the same time.
Its astonishing how this changes the game, and the AWACS interface itself becomes a completely different game in TAW. The integration of the AWACS component into an ongoing war dramatically changes its impact. I hadn't realized this myself until I had more than an hour to fly. In short, this is what I have been up to...
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I was in the War Room interface watching the progress of events when I noticed a large inbound strike force. Even zooming in the War Room map only gave me a partial picture. I clicked on FLY and chose the AWACS selection then clicked on PATROL...
The strike force appeared to consist of about eight attack aircraft and six fighters. I quickly vectored the nearest CAP (over one hundred miles away) to intercept and then I saw an F22 airborn in the south (almost 200 miles distant). I could have gone back to the War Room and hoped for a SCRAMBLE, but rather than wait I decided to go into action.
I jumped into the F22 and broke high, levelling off at 35,000 and 120% power. I then watched the incoming strike flight on my IFDL link. The F16s closed with the group and engaged. It was difficult to tell at that distance EXACTLY what transpired, but I was on COMM2 and listened to the F16s call their engagement. Unfortunately, while a couple of bandits went down, so did my F16s!
Still monitoring the engagement via IFDL I was 130 miles from the group when I noticed that two EF2s had launched from an airbase about sixty miles north of the strike force. I needed a closer look than my IFDL would allow at that range, so I switched to manual EMCON ONE and then jumped back to the AWACS room and vectored the EF2 pair to intercept. While I was in the Commanders chair I also vectored an escort on an outbound F16 SEAD group who looked like they would be in for rough weather.
In order to maintain control of the F22 that was now enroute to the inbound bandits I ordered the aircraft I had jumped out of to INTERCEPT the inbound strike force. This ensured that my airplane stayed on track while I was busy with other matters! Then I noticed another situation developing to the northeast. I vectored an F15 CAP closer to the border for cover.
Now I gave my attention back to the brewing engagement. I zoomed in the map and could tell that the inbound group was still eight Su27s strong and at least six MiG 21s. Hmm. I decided to vector another F22 in that direction that had obviously just scrambled. If I was shot down this would allow me to continue the fight, and either way I might need the help! Then.. jump back into my F22!
At eighty miles I reassessed the situation. The EF2s were just engaging and part of the Su27 group broke off. This left possibly six still heading my way. I turned to bracket from the left since the EF2s were engaging from the right.
From here things got quite crazy but between us we managed to take out all but two MiGs. Both EF2s died valiantly and did quite well. I took a hit on the left wing near the end and had my MFDs flashing but other systems remained intact. The aircraft became a bit difficult to level but not very bad.
I requested a vector for landing and received instructions and proceeded at 20,000 feet and full power. At this point I jumped out of the F22 to get a look at the overall theatre. I noticed a Mirage scramble was now after the remaining MiGs, so the other F22 I had vectored I now re-ordered to a CAP a bit south. There was also a western border skirmish and I ordered two intercepts to assist a failing attempt by MiG 21s to deal with MiG 29s.
By the way, this Commander mode can be very intoxicating. At one point I had a huge furball broiling on my western border, with four HAWKS, two F16s and about eight enemy aircraft all within 8 miles of one another. It was almost hypnotizing to watch and listen in on the action, but I had other things to do!
I jumped back into my F22 which was about twenty miles out from landing. I landed intact although my airbrake failed just off the runway. Stopping on the runway I refueled and rearmed the aircraft, then jumped back to the AWACS room to see what else was happening. (Note: I chose to manually land because otherwise this aircraft would not be rearmed and ready for action).
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I was especially interested in the progress of the F16 SEAD group which was now under escort by an F22. They had progressed beyond a MiG 29 CAP and the F22 was finishing off a MiG. I noticed that there was an IL 78 Mainstay about 130 miles to the North.. too tempting! The MiG 29 was already going down, and I jumped into the F22 and vectored North. I wanted to manage this in person! I took out the escort and Mainstay BVR, then jumped back to AWACS and vectored the F22 back to escort duty.
Meanwhile I noticed that the F22 I had landed and rearmed was now scrambled to do a VIS-IDENT. I couldn't see much sense in the order since the bogie was 150 miles in enemy territory, so I cancelled the order and placed the F22 in a CAP about 100 miles north where most of the border incursions were taking place.
While I was taking a close look at the theatre I noticed a lone MiG 27 closing on my southern JSTARS position. I couldn't find any escort (unusual) and only had about sixty miles to spare! I vectored a lone MiG 21 to intercept and held my breath.
Just as the MiG closed to engage the JSTARS a SCRAMBLE mission popped up on the nearest base (about 25 miles). A pair of HAWKS were rolling down the runway, but they were too late. My JSTARS went down to the dust. My MiG 21 engaged a moment later but had no more luck and was killed in the knife fight. The HAWKS fared much better and the MiG became another statistic.
By this time a situation was developing on my northeast border with at least three separate flights of enemy aircraft travelling just inside neutral airspace. I vectored a Mirage team to a nearby CAP and vectored a pair of F16s to engage.
As soon as the F16s were in missile range the enemy group crossed the border into my territory. An F22 mission scrambled at that moment and I dove into the pilots seat.
The aerial battle that ensued was quite spectacular, but this time I had the help of a wingman! Between us we carried 8 AIM120Rs, 20 AIM120s and 4 AIM9x! (I hate to think what this cost the government ;-) The F16s engaged first and had the enemy rather occupied when we arrived on the scene. We attacked from the left flank as half the enemy fighters attempted to engage the F16s.
One of the F16s went down almost immediately, but the battle went very well anyway. Once my wingman and I had engaged BVR with most of our long range weapons we turned away to observe the results. Of a very large force of perhaps eighteen aircraft, twelve were down in the first sixty seconds. However, I now saw another incoming force about fifty miles back.
Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor I called for Recovery and we went to gather some more weapons! By this time the second F16 had gone down. Once heading for home I jumped back to the AWACS chair to check what other resources were nearby. The Mirage CAP had already vectored north after another group, and nothing else was available. I jumped back to MUMTAZ 223, landed and rearmed.
My wing circled while I rearmed and then we were back in the sky taking on the incoming group. By the time I had completed this AWACS excursion and exitted back to the War Room I had racked up over a thousand points and fifty kills. Not bad for two hours of flight!
One question this may raise in your mind regards the ability of WARGEN (the dynamic campaign AI) to take care of business while you are flying. The AI is good, and often I've found that just as I am wondering what to do WARGEN makes the call and either scrambles a flight or vectors a flight to Intercept.
However, if you keep a watchful eye, there are other times when moving a flight closer to a developing situation is prudent, and there are times when you will vector an Intercept before WARGEN makes the call, sometimes saving a base or factory from a bombing run. Its worth using the War Room chair and seating in the AWACS command seat for the most successful campaign.